The Gateway High School football team made history by becoming the first boys’ team from Gateway to make it to a state championship game, but the road to greatness was treacherous.
And time was not on their side.
“Do you want to continue to add sand to the hourglass and give yourself more time,” said Justin Clyatt, the interim head coach at Gateway. “Or do you want to hang up your pads.”
Two weeks before they began spring season C for CHSAA high school football, Gateway watched their coach quit.
“Days before we were having zoom meetings,” says senior quarterback Erick Covington. “Everything was about to click, and right when that happens, he just got up and left.”
“I was a little bit frustrated,” says Eric Rivera, a senior linebacker. “We worked too hard over the summer even while he was here to be ready for moments like this.”
With little time to prepare, Justin Clyatt leaped into the fray. As a Gateway graduate, he relished the opportunity to lead his team.
“We've got to go,” says Clyatt, remembering his mindset when he took over the program. “I mean you’ve got two weeks there’s no time to sulk. I know the kids were excited it was me and I was excited to be there for them and to start this journey and see where it took us.”
The Olympians continued battling time: two weeks they were shut down due to COVID-19, and two games they played with just two practices-worth of preparation.
“Throughout this whole process we’ve just been facing adversity,” says Covington.
Perhaps the most adversity they faced was in their quarterfinal playoff game against George Washington.
“Alright, they’re undefeated and we’ve had two days of practice,” says Rivera. “Let’s go in here because I’m not going home yet.”
“The coaches telling me to eat some food, that didn’t settle well,” says Covington. “So, I had to find the nearest thing to puke in. I just felt like a whole new me, like I just woke up with a full night of rest. A new energy came inside of me.”
“it’s like a movie. Storybook,” says Rivera.
The underdogs proved they belong, making history in the process. Building this new-found success on sturdy bedrock of perseverance and love.
“We just show them how to find solutions,” says Clyatt. “I think a lot of times with adversity if you don’t have a solution it puts you in a bad place. We tell our kids every day that we love them, and it just shows that it’s ok for you to be able to tell that to somebody else."
“I always like to say football is like clockwork,” says Rivera. If one gear isn’t moving the clocks not going to tick.”
Gateway football is moving more like a Rolex than a sundial these days, but this moment as Olympians is finite.
“That sand’s going to run out, but what do you want that sand to look like when it comes out of the glass,” says Clyatt.
However, they’ve now turned time into an ally. Because this group will be remembered forever.